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Villagers bid to save one of UK's last remaining green telephone boxes

WORRIED villagers say one of England’s only green phone boxes is under threat.

People living in Barningham are against BT’s proposal to disconnect the kiosk, which is thought to be one of only five green phone boxes in the country.

BT said it wanted to take out the phone line after revealing that no one has used it for more than a year But because the box is listed as a structure of historical interest, BT may not be able to remove the phone system without listed building consent.

Rather than going through that process, residents fear BT will “just seal it up and let it deteriorate”.

BT has invited the village to “adopt” the kiosk for £1 once the phone box equipment has been
removed. Hutton Magna Parish Council recently took over its red box for £1 but then faced a £230 bill to disconnect the lighting.

Barningham Parish chairman Jon Smith said: “We don’t want to land our village with costs like that. Ideally, we’d like to keep the phone box in operation but it’s hard to see how the expense would be justified.

“We certainly want to keep the box, working or not – it’s a feature of the village and everyone’s fond of it.”

Barningham’s phone box was built outside the old post office after villagers complained about the postmistress listening into calls on a public telephone located inside her shop.

The land belonged to Sir Frederick Milbank, who gave permission for it to be built – on condition that it was painted green.
A similar green box, in Lancashire, was touted as being the only green phone box in England on TV show ‘Record Breakers’.

However, others exist in Dorset, East Sussex and North Yorkshire, and Berkshire.
Barningham’s became a listed structure three years ago.

The alternative to adopting the phone box for £1 is keeping it open with a council subsidy of about £500 a year. Parish clerk Robin Brooks said: “If BT are right about nobody using it, it would be hard to argue that £500-a-year subsidy was a good use of public money.”

Barningham Parish Meeting has written to Durham County Council to object to removing the phone line until the views of villagers have been established.

A BT spokeswoman said: “Green boxes are very rare and Barningham’s could be the only one in the North East.”
She added that by adopting it, people in Barningham would be able to safeguard the structure for future generations.

13/10/2009

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